Shitleg in Beijing
Our 4-bunk dorm room is home to 6 of us this week. Paul is my British travel mate. He's from Bristol, England, and his accent and his dry, yet rich and funloving sense of humor go together like "tea and crumpets". We met in Mongolia 3 weeks ago, and have become great friends. Tonight I will head south and Paul west. At 6'3", I call him the BFG (big, friendly giant), and we joke that the Chinese make way for him for fear of being eaten.
Also in Mongolia, I met Magnus and Rasmus over a bottle of vodka. They are 20 year-old Swedish self-proclaimed "enjoyers of life" who love to "paaw-eee" (they were quick to adopt Paul's way of pronouncing "party"). Last night, the 3 of us played an impromptu gig at a Beijing bar, along with our other Swedish friend, Johannes. We call ourselves "Shitleg". See the following link to see a couple of songs from that night..haha. Might have to give it a few minutes to load: Shitleg in Beijing. (Magnus has been known as shitleg since a horse sprayed his entire leg with diarrhea in Mongolia - he wasn't able to clean it off for 3 days).
Charlie, the Scotsman, and I became friends after I peeled him off the sidewalk outside a sketchy nightclub on the other side of town last week. While inside, I watched carefully as a skinny, long-faced, lonely, and nervous Chinese man in a red track suit and glasses spent $5,000+ on bottle service at an OPEN BAR, handing drinks only to other men...Charlie had a couple of them. Believe me, after three months on the road, I can say one thing for certain: one can never be too careful. Charlie is a chef at a mountaineering hotel in northern Norway, but his Suzanna lives in Argentina.
Mark, also English, runs an internet advertising business from a laptop while traveling from place to place. He spits out statistics like an old-fashion slot machine spits out nickels. He's worn the same shirt for months and fears that Google will soon put him out of business.
My cheek muscles are sore. The six of us smile and laugh as we walk the newly clean streets of Beijing during the day. 5 years ago, we would have stuck out like sore thumbs on the crowded passages, but nowadays, many of that crowd are Westerners. In the morning, we lie in our bunks, passing around ibuprofen while discussing the horrible effects of Chinese liquor. In the evening, we sit in the common room at the hostel, listening to Mark's statistics and playing the cheap Chinese guitars that Magnus and Johannes plan to smash tonight before heading to the train station.
It's time to move on alone. Tonight I'm taking the train to a mountain called Tai Shan to climb its 6,600 steps and renew myself. See you later, Beijing. See you soon, my friends.
"There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed - some forever not for better; some have gone, and some remain. All these places had their moment, with lovers and friends I still can recall. Some are dead and some are living; in my life, I've loved them all."
-- John Lennon and Paul McCartney